Archive for Author habitatdana

Science March and Leftist values

I attended the Science March on Earth Day on April 22nd, 2017 in Tacoma, Washington because of my concern over the cuts the Trump administration has proposed to vital government agencies such as the EPA, NIH, NASA, NOAA, NSF, National Parks, and more. Even more concerning is the way in which it has tried to control the availability of scientific reports, especially in regards to climate change, and the way it has tried to silence and bully government scientists so that they have had to express themselves anonymously on alternative websites and social media pages.

In general, the Left appears more supportive of science than the Right, but there has been some criticism of the position of many liberals on certain scientific topics such as vaccines, GMO’s and nuclear energy:

Even Bill Nye has changed his view on some of these topics, which he discusses with panels of experts on his new TV show on Netflix:

As an environmentalist and a hobby genealogist/family historian, I felt the need to respond to concerns about these specific topics.


Vaccines: I totally agree with the criticism of people who choose not to vaccinate their children. Vaccines save lives! Throughout history, many children did not survive to adulthood or were left maimed and disfigured because of these devastating diseases. It is unfortunate that many diseases that were nearly eradicated are making a comeback because of people choosing not to vaccinate. This puts not only their family at risk, but others in society, including babies who are too young to vaccinate and those with suppressed immune systems.

There was an infamous scientific report published in The Lancet that associated vaccines with autism. That report was debunked and declared fraudulent…Anyone can make a claim, but scientific studies must be able to have its data evaluated and reviewed. Studies must be able to be replicated with consistent results.

There also has been some concern over carrier chemicals used in conjunction in the administration of vaccines.  I am confident that medical researchers will continue to develop new and better formulations:

I have often said that I believe the reason that the rates of autism and other diseases are on the increase are more likely due to chemicals in our food and in our environment. (Our addiction to computer games and many hours of screen time are likely affecting the brains of our children as well.) More scientific study is needed—-not less!

This leads me to the next topic:

GMOs, Genetically Modified Organisms: I believe there are a lot of environmental and ethical concerns that need to be addressed in regards to GMOs.

First of all, proponents argue that GMO’s are just another tool used to create varieties of plants and animals that will be useful in agriculture and our quest for food security. They claim it is not much different than traditional plant breeding efforts.

Ethics: It is true that we have adapted many species of plants and animals over several millennia for our purposes. But inserting DNA from unrelated species into other species seems a bit more “unnatural.” I think that this topic should be debated by ethicists. Just because something can be done, doesn’t mean it should be done!

I have a problem with the patenting of living organisms. Especially in regards to how Monsanto has defended its patent rights in the past. Farmers should be able to save their seeds to replant the following year, yet teams of Monsanto’s patent lawyers have gone after seed saving companies and farmers that have tried to save their seed for replanting. Even neighboring farms, who did not plant the patented crops, who had their crops “contaminated” with Monsanto’s GMO’s were targets sued for patent infringement. Companies like Monsanto REQUIRE that new seed be bought every year. Meanwhile, the availability of seed is in the hands of very few companies so that they have a virtual monopoly.

Safety: I am not as concerned about the safety of GMO’s themselves in our food as I am about associated risks. The whole purpose for “Round-up Ready” crops, is so that farmers could use Round-up to kill weeds, but not their crops. So, we are at risk of having Glyphosate residue on our produce and in our environment. Glyphosate HAS been linked to autism and may also be a risk factor in other diseases—More research, needs to be done!

Environment: If we are using GMO crops so we can spray more chemicals, that is bad for the environment. But it may be good if we can reduce the spraying of chemicals. There is a debate raging on the safety of BT crops. People can do their own research and decide:

I am also concerned about the escape of GMOs into natural environments. This is especially a concern when it comes to fish and tree species. It is hard to predict how natural populations would be able to compete against GMO’s. I always think of the chaos theorist in Jurassic Park who says “No, I’m, I’m simply saying that life, uh… finds a way.”… and then the dinosaurs escaped the island on which they were confined…

Photo from Science March Facebook page

—“Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” —Another Jurassic Park quote.


Nuclear Energy: Many scientists contend that nuclear energy is necessary source of energy if we are to satisfy the demand for energy while reducing reliance on carbon polluting fossil fuels.  The two main reasons that I oppose nuclear energy is the potential for disaster and the enormous cost to build and maintain nuclear energy facilities.

Danger: The potential for disaster is too great. We all saw the devastating effects in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami in 2011. As well as historical failures at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.

How long does nuclear waste last? –“Radioactive isotopes eventually decay, or disintegrate, to harmless materials. Some isotopes decay in hours or even minutes, but others decay very slowly. Strontium-90 and cesium-137 have half-lives of about 30 years (half the radioactivity will decay in 30 years). Plutonium-239 has a half-life of 24,000 years.” –from the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That is a long time to keep dangerous materials contained! I can’t help but picture people of the future unknowingly stumbling across a forgotten nuclear waste storage facility!

Here in Washington State, we are still struggling to contain nuclear waste at Hanford that was left over from WWII.

Expense: Nuclear energy is expensive. Older facilities need maintenance and building new ones cost a lot. Many projects have been abandoned due to lack of funds and/or lack of support. Meanwhile, the cost of clean, renewable energy sources has come down in price. Renewables: wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, etc. are starting to be a major part in our energy mix.

What poses the greatest danger to our future? What should we really be scared of?

We need to let scientists study and evaluate data so that we can come to rational conclusions regarding these questions. How serious is the threat of Climate Change, terrorism, and gun violence? Let’s face it we are human; we often let our emotions get the better of us. But we need to take a step back and look at what is really true, like what are the current leading causes of death in the U.S and what do we need to study to be able to find solutions to these problems?





“Let’s be clear. The planet is not in jeopardy. We are in jeopardy. We haven’t got the power to destroy the planet – or to save it. But we might have the power to save ourselves.” ― Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park




Ecological Garden Designs Index

Native Plant Gardening

Wildlife Gardening

Xerophytic Gardens

Rain Gardens

Green Roofs


Landscaping for Energy Conservation

Permaculture & Vegetable Gardens

Fern Gardens & Stumperies

Moss Gardens

Guerilla Gardening

Also Check out my articles at West Sound Home & Garden:

Want Carefree Gardening? Tips for Ecolawns and Other Low-Maintenance Ideas

Native Plant Gardening Index

Landscaping With Natives

Edible Native Berries

Ethnobotanical Gardens

Propagation of Native Plants

Growing Endangered Species

Prepare for Global Warming with California Natives

Meaning and Derivation on some Scientific Names of Pacific Northwest natives (PDF)

The Heath Family–Family Ericaceae

Also check out my articles on the Westside Home & Garden Blog:

Water, Wild Plants, and Wildlife–How to Create a Backyard Sanctuary for Wildlife

Best Native Plants for Protecting Your Hillside from Erosion

Scientific Names of Plants Demystified

And B&B online (The Official Publication of Washington State Nursery and Landscape Association):

Not Just Another Native: Unusual and Underused Natives


Design Considerations Index


Soils & Geology

Natural Habitats & Ecosystems

Vegetational Zones

Special Habitats

Urban Ecology

Functional Landscapes

Screens, Hedges, & Hedgerows

What will grow in this spot? Climate Zones & microclimates

Basic Botany

Bulbs, Corms, Tubers, Rhizomes


Also Check out my article at the Westside Home & Garden:

Conservatories, Greenhouses, Cold Frames and Sunrooms

Food for Quail

   Someone recently contacted the nursery where I work interested in buying plants that will improve her  habitat for quail. This is what I came up with for her:

   I am assuming you are referring to California Quail.

   Habitat in general is the most important thing to consider. Quail eat tender leaves in late winter and spring, but rely mostly on seeds. They will also eat insects such as ants, beetles, grasshoppers & crickets. I always recommend that people who want to create habitat for wildlife should not be neatniks, because many of the plants that wildlife depend upon are considered weeds by people. And of course, as you mentioned in your email, they need shrubs for protection (cover) and access to water, too.

   I am attaching scanned pages from American Wild life & Plants, A Guide to Wildlife Food Habits, by Alexander C. Martin, (1951) (It is a Dover Publication published by agreement of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, so is not under copyright.) It lists weeds that you may want to encourage in your yard.

Quail Food

  In addition, food plants that we have at the nursery would include:


Oregon White Oak, Quercus garryana

Deerbrush, Ceanothus velutinus

Redstem Ceanothus, Ceanothus sanguineus

Pacific Mock Orange, Philadelphus lewisii



Coast Silktassel, Garrya elliptica

Nootka Rose, Peafruit Rose, Baldhip Rose, Rosa sp.

Salmonberry, Thimbleberry, Blackcap Raspberry, Dewberry, Rubus sp.

Redtwig Dogwood, Cornus sericea

Soapberry or Buffaloberry, Shepherdia Canadensis

Twinberry, Lonicera involucrata

Coast Strawberry, Wild Strawberry, Wood Strawberry, Fragaria Sp.

Permaculture, human endeavor with an environmental ethic

    Permaculture is short for permanent agriculture. It is the conscious design and maintenance of food-producing ecosystems which have the diversity and resilience of natural ecosystems. It has grown to include the sustainable production of energy, shelter, and other materials.

    The philosophy behind permaculture is one of working with, rather than against nature; creating a harmonious landscape ecosystem for people and wildlife — Permaculture is a creative design process, based on an environmental ethic, that encourages us to study, observe, & mimic the patterns and relationships we find in nature.

    By adopting the ethics and applying these principles, we can make the transition from being dependent consumers to producing some of our own healthy food and materials. We can also relearn traditional skills, such as food preservation & general self-suffiency that our ancestors relied upon for survival. These skills and community-supported permaculture programs may help us to prepare for an uncertain future as populations increase and food & other resources become scarcer on our finite planet.Permaculture

    Central to permaculture are the three ethics: care for the earth, care for people, and fair share. They form the foundation for permaculture design and are also found in most traditional societies. Following are the 12 principles of permaculture as described by David Holmgren, with some of my own editorial comments:

1. Observe and Interact – Take the time to engage with nature. We are often focused on work and the task at hand such that we forget to appreciate what surrounds us…take notice of the flowers & the birds & the beauty that surrounds you.

2. Catch and Store Energy –Collect resources when they are abundant and use them in times of need: Catch water with rain barrels, compost to store nutrients for plants, & harvest & preserve food for future use.

3. Obtain a yield – Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as a result of the work you are doing…emotional and psychological rewards, as well as staple foods and sweet fruit– nature’s candy!

4. Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback –discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well…avoid chemicals and other harmful inputs to the ecology of your garden. Take notice to see what works…and what doesn’t.

5. Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services –Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources. I use the cheapest local sources for soils, natural fertilizers, mulches and other materials; reusing & repurposing what I can.

6. Produce No Waste –By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste…food scraps can go to pigs, chickens, or worms or can just be composted.

7. Design From Patterns to Details –By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go…getting inspiration from nature!

8. Integrate Rather Than Segregate – By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other… know whether plants need sun or shade, wet or fairly dry, or benefit from companion plants.

9. Use Small and Slow Solutions –Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and produce more sustainable outcomes…Focus on small sections of your garden at a time, improving soil and building populations of beneficial organisms.

10. Use and Value Diversity – Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides. By growing several crops you avoid “putting all your eggs in one basket.” You will have some failures, but hopefully your successes outweigh the cost of a failure. In nature, some trees will produce heavily one year and sparsely the next as a strategy to control the population of frugivores or seed-eaters. By growing a variety of species you are more likely to have a healthy ecosystem and a more stable food source.

11. Use Edges and Value the Marginal –The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system. Edges of forests are the most diverse wildlife habitat and ideal growing conditions for many shrubs.

12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change –We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing and then intervening at the right time. Use IPM, Integrated Pest Management techniques to monitor and control pest populations. Remember that landscapes are dynamic, constantly changing through the seasons, and through the years…

   A Permaculture Garden can be divided into zones as follows:

Zone 0–The house, or home center in a permaculture design creates a harmonious, sustainable environment in which to live, work & play. It uses energy and water conservatively and incorporates sustainable energy systems such as wind, solar, or geothermal power.

Zone 1–The zone nearest to the house is for those elements in the system that require frequent attention. It may include a kitchen garden with raised beds for growing salad crops, vegetable & herb plants, strawberries, or other berries, propagation areas (greenhouse and cold frames), a chicken coop, and/or a worm compost bin for kitchen waste.

Zone 2 –Contains perennial plants that require less frequent maintenance. This may include orchards, berry bushes, squashes etc. beehives, larger scale composting bins, and so on.

Zone 3–The area where field crops are grown or livestock is pastured, both for domestic use and for trade purposes. After establishment, care and maintenance required, such as watering or weed control, are fairly minimal (maybe once a week). Livestock may need to be visited more often.

Zone 4–A semi-wild area. This zone is mainly used for forage and collecting wild food as well as production of timber for construction or firewood.

Zone 5–A wilderness area. There is no human intervention in zone 5 apart from the observation of natural ecosystems and cycles. Through this zone we build up a natural reserve of bacteria, molds and insects that can aid the zones above it. Eradication of invasive species may be needed at times.

   One of my family’s favorite sitcoms is the 1970’s British TV show: “The Good Life” or“Good Neighbors.” In the show, Tom Good quits his job and he and his wife, Barbara, adopt a self-sufficient lifestyle in their suburban neighborhood to the horror of their good friends and neighbors. They grow fruits & vegetables in their front and back gardens. They raise chickens, pigs, and a goat. They even generate their own electricity, using methane from animal waste and attempt to make their own clothes. They sell or barter surplus crops for essentials they cannot make themselves. Although this lifestyle is probably not really feasible on a small suburban lot (but it makes for a funny sitcom!), and is difficult for those that have more property, we can try to adopt some of these goals and ideas, even though we can’t go all the way and quit our wage-earning jobs!

   There are many local community groups that hold workshops on Permaculture. A quick internet search may find one near you!


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